The Language of Physics pp 169-206 | Cite as

# On the Margins: Experimental Philosophy and Mathematics in Britain, 1790–1830

## Abstract

Experimental philosophers in Britain developed their own forms of theoretical physics during the same period as the Germans. In broad outlines, the processes through which these transformations occurred were the same. Socially experimental philosophy became a profession rather than an avocation; passage into the research community narrowed from self-education to formal, certified educational levels within the universities of Britain. Access to entry into the research communities was consequently constrained by these formal, educational gateways. Training became the modern apprenticeship of graduated courses, problems sets, and textbooks along with laboratory courses. Access narrowed to the social institutions of science that had appeared as open and serving many cultural, economic, and social purposes in the late eighteenth century. Their memberships and purposes became limited to the professional, research oriented physicist. The institutions that had been intellectually universal and geographically local became narrowly specialized and geographically national.

## Keywords

Nineteenth Century Royal Society Royal Institution Liberal Education Early Nineteenth Century## Preview

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## References

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*Metropolis and Province: Science in British Culture, 1780–1850*, Ian Inkster and Jack Morrell, eds. (London: Hutchinson, 1983).Google Scholar - 1b.See also Ian Inkster, “Cultural Enterprise: Science, Steam, Intellectual and Social Class in Rochdale,
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*A History of the Study of Mathematics at Cambridge*(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1889)MATHGoogle Scholar - 71b.For the development of the Senate House examinations into the Tripos, see W. W. R. Ball,
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*An Elementary Treatise on Astronomy*(Cambridge: J. Smith, 1812) was largely descriptive. The equation of time and method of computing eclipses derived from the tradition of observational astronomers. Woodhouse explained that unlike geometry astronomy did not spring from simple principles followed by logically deductible results. Everything was connected and accuracy achieved through successive approximations.Google Scholar - 74b.Woodhouse,
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*The Patronage of Science in the Nineteenth Century*, G. L’ E. Turner, ed. (Leiden: Noordhoff, 1976), 53–93.Google Scholar - 85a.The preeminent examples are Jane Marcet in chemistry and Mary Somerville in astronomy. See Somerville,
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*Preliminary Dissertation on the Mechanism of the Heavens*(London: 1832).Google Scholar - 85c.See Elizabeth Patterson,
*Mary Somerville and the Cultivation of the Sciences, 1815–1840*(The Hague: Nijhoff, 1983). Faraday became his own mediator, establishing Friday evening lectures at the Royal Institution.Google Scholar - 86.See J. B. Morrell, “Science and Scottish University Reform: Edinburgh in 1826,”
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*Notes on the Principles of Pure and Applied Calculation: and the Application of Mathematical Principles to Theories of Physical Force*(Cambridge: Deighton, Bell and Co., 1869). Challis reduced gravity, heat and other forces of nature to mechanical pressure in a fluid ether. While analytically defensible, James Clerk Maxwell described Challis’ work as self-consistent mathematically, but physically indefensible. Challis’ fluids could not behave as ordinary fluids.Google Scholar - 114b.See Maxwell, “Challis’ ‘Mathematical Principles of Physics’,”
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*Cambridge before Darwin: The Ideal of a Liberal Education, 1800–1860*(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1980).Google Scholar - 115b.M. V. Wilkes has explored the roles of Peacock, and Herschel in shaping the Cambridge curriculum in the middle of the nineteenth century in Wilkes, “Herschel, Peacock, Babbage and the Development of the Cambridge Curriculum,”
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*Hist. Math.*1 (1980): 343–365MathSciNetGoogle Scholar - 116e.Helen Pycior, “George Peacock and the British Origins of Symbolical Algebra,” same journal 8 (1981): 23–45, “Early Criticism of the Symbolic Approach to Algebra,” same journal 9 (1982): 392–412, Joan Richards, “Rigor and Clarity: Foundations of Mathematics in France and England, 1800–1840,”
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